One of my children in particular shed some tears recently over our upcoming move. And that made me happy.
I’m not sadistic, so don’t worry. (Yes, it made me a little sad, too.)
I’ve been writing lately about my family relocating to my new husband’s home, soon to be our home, about 40 minutes away from where we live now. It’s a big deal to us. We haven’t moved often.
In the life of an adult, of course, a 40-minute drive isn’t much when it comes to maintaining friendships. But in the life of a child, it’s a fairly daunting obstacle to keeping relationships alive. We certainly plan on visits and overnights, but it won’t be the same. There’s no “Mom, can I go to so-and-so’s house after rehearsal? Her mom will bring me home,” or “Let’s meet up before school tomorrow.”
So while all of my children are excited about a new home in a new neighborhood and living with a stepdad they adore, there is sadness, too. This particular daughter knows that she will make many new friends, as she always does. But it’s still hard for her to leave the ones she has now. I appreciate her maturity and that she is able to look at the whole picture, and clearly see and articulate the tapestry of emotions she is going through all at the same time. The excitement and the sadness.
This is not particularly newsworthy; don’t get me wrong. After all, few kids want to move. The question for me is, how do we respond to any such loss in our children’s lives?
Well, how do we respond to it in ours?
So often in our culture today we fear any kind of grief. We so desperately want to get over a loss and get back to comfort and feeling “good” about things. We want to find ways around grief, or medicate ourselves through grief. We especially lament the very idea of disappointment or loss in our children’s lives.
I’m not suggesting we go looking for sadness, and, anyway, we don’t have to. It will find us. And yes, I’m speaking as someone who definitely has “happiness” and being positive as an automatic set point in my life. But the positive side of grief is that it tells us the thing lost was important to us. It mattered. It’s in our hearts. We connected with it, or him, or her. Having those attachments is what makes us human.
And so my daughter’s tears tell me that her life here was good and significant — and that is what makes me happy.
We came to this home not quite nine years ago now, just after suddenly finding out we would be a single-parent family. The children were 10, 8, 5 and 3. The house here was different in just about every way from the one we left. It became our nest. It helped me to nurture my family during really important and difficult and wonderful years. In some ways those years are a blur to me now. But they mattered.
I built a life for my kids in this home, and the tears my daughter was shedding were partly a reflection of that. Not that I think I did anything impressive, but that by God’s grace they clearly felt nurtured and cared for. They connected to the people and the place and felt good here.
In fact, it feels like a loss to her because it was good. And that’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s part of the tapestry that makes us who we are.
So I didn’t try to point out to my daughter all the fabulous things about her new home and life and extended family, as if they canceled anything she was losing. Sure, from my perspective, it’s clear we are gaining so much more. I’m so thankful she appreciates and is excited about all those things, too, and that there is a great deal of laughter for her along the way.
But her vision is cloudier than mine just now. Of course it is. So I simply shared that I was glad she cared enough about her life here, that it mattered enough to her, that she is sad to leave it to the extent that she is. I think that helped.
What I hope for, of course, is that my children will continue becoming caring, connected people who experience laughter and excitement at whatever is coming next — along with tears over what they are leaving behind — when they leave our next home someday, too.
Reach Betsy Hart at betsysblog.com.